October 09, 2007

White Picket Fences

I have from time to time advocated for speaking out. Too often, Purple WomenTM are invisible and blend into the crowd. After two years of blogging here in this topically focused blog about being a woman without children, I have been approached by reporters who are interested in the subject.

My most recent interview was conducted on my cell phone, which got very hot in my ear, while I was sitting in my car in the grocery store parking lot. The story was published today in the TimeOut section of the Valley Times, a publication of Contra Costa Times. I am not in it, thankfully. The story is about regret. The self-identified "childfree" women that I meet here do not identify with being childless, they embrace their choice, whether it is circumstances or health reasons, or adamant super-conscious decision-making alone.

These empowered, self-defined women are not what this article is about. The reporter focuses on those who miss out on the American dream of the car, the house, the 2.5 children and a white picket fence. "Gimme a straight jacket!" It's a depressing read:

Childless by Fate, Choice: Coming to Terms With What Might Have Been by Jessica Yadegaran
I guess I should not be so surprised by the piece. I am living in the heartland of the East Bay suburbia. They have to cater to their readership. The burbs are where people go to raise children. So Purple Women will remain invisible. This newspaper probably has no idea how many of its readership are confidently, childfree or childless by choice. It all depends on your perspective.

Flickr photo by roujo (cc)
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M said...

Another long comment from me as usual . . .

Looks like the first person they mentioned briefly was described as being content? But that was it.

I guess this article had a different focus than what PW is all about, but I do think there is a place for that type of story as well. And I do think it's important for those of us who, for whatever reasons, are childfree to consider both those who are content later on with the choice, and those who are not.

It can't hurt to hear of those with regrets because it can help us ascertain even more how and why we are different from those people (in which case things are fine) or perhaps set off an alarm that we are more like them than we realized (in which case some may decide to revisit their current decisions and consider the future more and work on being even more certain of their choices, whichever way they end up leaning).

I hope that doesn't sound like I am echoing those who believe "you'll change your mind," etc. b/c those comments drive me mad, and yet as a childfree person myself, I feel it is very important to also see this other side, the side of those who do have regrets and to continually make sure I am not or will not be one of these people.

In addition it isn't all about potentially changing one's mind. I think some of what the article talked about was even when you do make the decision and it's right for you, there may still need to be a psychological grieving process that lets you lets go of expectations you may have had for yourself, that society has, that your family may have for you, etc. There is nothing wrong with making the choice to be childfree, being content about it, and yet needing to resolve some of those issues.

I know that as I age issues come up in various ways and I prefer to think and talk about them without feeling that by doing so I am compromising my childfree status or opening the door to those "you'll change your mind" types to start their chorus.

I guess my point is that I believe there is value in the type of stories I typically find on here--and a serious dearth and need for such stories--and yet there is also one for the type in that article today, because just because we have chosen childfree does not mean some of us might not have regrets and might not need to do some psych. work around the decision.

Of course none of that means many happily childfree women shouldn't write in to that paper to share their experiences being childfree and to show the other side of the coin--that many are elated with their decision and that their only regret is that more people don't know about how fulfilling a choice childfree can be.

(Disclaimer: I "closely skimmed," but did not read the article word for word.)

Deidre said...

Life is always full of regret but so often these childless articles really pile on the drama. I know several women with children who, if they could do it over, would have less kids or no kids at all. I'd like to see an article on that.

What interests me about this article is how many of the women speak of their lives the way they "imagined it." Much as I think Prince Charming/big white wedding fantasy can be dangerous to women, I think the child-bearing fantasy can be equally so. It's a form of social conditioning, making the "acceptable choice" seem much more attractive but it can cause shame and sorrow for us who don't/can't/won't opt in.

It also saddened me that the article implied that volunteering and helping children that aren't "yours" is a pale substitute for having your own. I do not want children but that doesn't mean I am do not like children. I think I can do more to help children by not having my own, by donating time and money to help impoverished children in this country and in others. I wish that was seen as a positive instead of as something done to fill the imagined "empty space" that not having a child leaves a person in mid-life.

LauraS said...

"helping children that aren't "yours" is a pale substitute for having your own?"
I felt myself rejecting that idea immediately. I have mentored young women who were not my own, not my race, not my culture. At first glance some might think 'what are they doing together?'
Yet, I take great pleasure from the challenge of making a loving connection, despite our differences and lack of blood or cultural ties. It confirms for me what I have have suspected for years, that I can be a kind of "mom" to anyone.
I don't equal mentoring with mothering. I don't doubt that the biological mother/child connection is different and special, the likes of which I may never experience. But that's okay for me. To me being a "mom" to a non-biological child is simply offering unconditional love. It's freeing and liberating to me that I can offer this to anyone. That it's not limited to a biological child.
Though I doubt it, I may regret not having my own children, but I will never regret the experience of helping other peoples children, nor do I think people can or should belittle that expeience as "less than" the experience of parenting a biological child.

Teri said...

I will try to correct the link in this post. I wonder it it was blocked intentionally by the publication? The link was fine two days ago, and now it requires a sign up to view the article. That is so bogus!

If I am unable to fix this, please feel free to Google the writer's name or the title of the piece.